“The Best News Ever”
When was the last time you received some really good news? I am not talking about some news story that made you smile or brightened your day. I'm talking about good news that changes your life. It might be an unexpected gift of money that gets you out of debt, it might be a surprisingly good health report that turns around your world, or what about getting the news of a new baby being born into your family. Yes, we like good news stories like that, don't we! We look forward to hearing them and we wish they would come more often. Oh, in the midst of all of the bad and negative news and information, good news boosts our spirits and gives us hope. The Bible records a number of stories that happened many years ago. Some of them contained bad news for the people involved. It was news of a tragic death, the loss of a kingdom, or even one's separation from God. On the other hand, many received good and exciting news, which changed their life. Some include the answer to a prayer, the reassuring presence of God, or an unexpected miracle. Yes, the Bible is filled with all kinds of stories. And if you were to make a list of all of those involving good news, how many would be on that list? And, on such a list, would you include the story of Jesus' arrival into this world. No doubt, that is some really good news. It is a beautiful story about God coming to the world in the flesh, in the form of a baby boy. Oh, we have heard the story before. We know the details. We hear it on a yearly basis. But, have we considered what Jesus' birth means to us, and to all of mankind? For the next few minutes, on "Key to the Kingdom," we will look at some of the statements others made about Jesus' arrival, as they proclaimed the best news story ever told. I hope you will join us, as we study together.
Throughout the day, many of us receive updated news reports concerning what is happening around the world. We watch television to hear the latest stories making headlines. And some of the news we receive is not so good. For indeed, there is a great deal of bad and evil and negative stuff going on in this world. On the other hand, however, some of the news is definitely worth hearing. We like those stories that make us feel good and that say something positive. We want news that is accurate and trustworthy. We believe certain individuals and media outlets will tell us the truth. We read internet stories and we listen to the news on the radio. Yes, in many and various ways the news makes a difference in how we live. The news can even make a difference in our lives. We need information as we make those life changing decisions and perhaps even our daily choices. Receiving news stories and reports is obviously a very important part of every day life. Well, the Bible is filled with lots of good news; and, some of the good news stories that we read here in God's Word revolve around God's love for mankind, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the salvation He offers to all people everywhere, and the promise of an eternal home with God in heaven. And when we consider all of the various good news stories that we find here in the Bible, there is one which certainly cannot be overlooked, the arrival of God's Son into this world; the birth of Jesus Christ. That news is not tucked away on some obscure passage in the back part of the Old Testament. Rather that news is prophesied by Old Testament prophets and it is recorded in several different places in the New Testament part of the Bible. For the next few minutes, I want us to look at some of these announcements, some of the proclamations that were made, both in the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. We begin first of all with a couple of Old Testament prophets. The first one is Micah, in chapter 5 and verse 2, <"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."> Micah reminds the people, there is coming a day when you will embrace a new leader. He will come from the little obscure town called Bethlehem, which is small among all of the other clans and cities there in Judah. But this ruler is someone who is special. He has been around a long time, even back to the very beginning when He was with the Father, during the creation of this world. Yes, Micah prophesied the coming of Jesus Christ. We find something similar in Isaiah, the prophet, in chapter 7 and verse 14: <"Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."> Isaiah prophesies about a virgin by the name of Mary who will bring a son into this world. His name will be called Immanuel and He will be someone very special. We notice that God will make all of that happen. God is the one who will be in control as He brings His Son into this world. We go from the prophets to the New Testament and we find a similar announcement made by the angels in heaven. Matthew records the story of Jesus' arrival into this earth in this way, in chapter 1, beginning with verse 18: <This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother, Mary, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the Law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord announced to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us."> Matthew records what Isaiah wrote in chapter 7 verse 14, which we just looked at; that a virgin will give birth to a son. His name will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. Indeed, Jesus was with the people; He taught them, He fed them, He healed them. Jesus' ministry took place not back behind the bushes but it took place out in the open among the people of this world. It's interesting to notice also that the Angel of the Lord made that announcement to Joseph, the son of David, and he said; what is happening with Mary, the one whom you will marry, is taking place by God. This is God's Son, through the Holy Spirit, and Jesus will come and He will save people from their sins. Oh, what a beautiful announcement. Let's look at another announcement which is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. This one is made by an angel, but this time to Mary; beginning with verse 26: <In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! the Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father, David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; His kingdom will never end."> Again, what a beautiful announcement made by the angel, Gabriel, to the one who would bring God's Son into this world. What a special announcement. And, no doubt, this young girl was afraid. In fact, the Scripture tells us she was terrified. She did not know what was happening. But the angel said, "You are highly favored by God. Out of all of the other women upon the earth, you have been chosen by God to bring His Son into this world." How special that must have made her feel, that this Son would be great, the Son of the Most High, God, and His kingdom would never end. Here's another announcement by the angels. It was made to the shepherds out in the field on the night Jesus was born. Notice these words from Luke chapter 2 verse 9: <An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."> Well, just like Joseph, the shepherds out in the field were afraid of what was happening, but the encouragement from the angel, Gabriel, said don't be afraid. Why? Because here is some Good News, and indeed it was. This Good News will bring great joy to people everywhere, all peoples, all nations and for all time. Did you realize that God had something to say about His Son's arrival? He made a great announcement concerning Jesus in Mark chapter 1: <At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw Heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. a voice from heaven saying, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."> Can you imagine, as a son, receiving those words from your father? I love you. You are my son. I am pleased with you. Maybe as a father, you can say those things to your son, perhaps even to your daughter; I love you, I am pleased with you. And indeed, God was pleased with His Son. His Son, Jesus, listened to Him and obeyed Him and faithfully fulfilled what His father set out for Him to accomplish. Here's one more statement, this one from John the Baptist, beginning in John 1, verse 29: <The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Then John gave this testimony, "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One."> John the Baptist was the very one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan. Yes, he was there. He heard the voice from God coming down like a dove sitting on Jesus' head, and he heard that announcement made by the Father in Heaven concerning His Son. He said, "Yes, I was there. I witnessed it. I testify to that fact." Then we notice there in verse 29, when John saw Jesus, he pointed at Him and he said, "The Lamb of God, the Sacrificial Lamb who has come to take away the sin of this world." What an announcement. Jesus Christ has come to do just that, to remove the curse of sin from mankind. Oh, from many different sources, this Good News was proclaimed to people everywhere. It was exciting news. It was history changing news. It was life changing news, and people throughout the centuries have been changed by these good words. Let me ask us a question. In light of all of these statements about Jesus' arrival, what do we do with that Good News? How do we respond to the announcement of God's Son coming into this world? Well, from these statements, we learn several things. First of all, we learn that Jesus came to save us from our sins. Now we all have a sin problem, according to the Bible. In Romans chapter 3, verse 23, Paul writes that no one is righteous before God. In chapter 6 verse 23, "We all sin and fall short of the glory of God." Yes, we have a sin problem and we have no solution for it. That's one reason why Jesus came, to save us from our sin. You might remember the story that's found in Acts chapter 2. The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, speaks to a large number of people about Jesus. He tells them about His arrival into this world, His ministry and His life. He then reminds the people that they were the ones who crucified Jesus upon the cross. But the grave could not hold the Son of God and God raised Him up victoriously. And then the people thought about that and they said, "Well, what do we do with that? How do we respond?" And Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Peter made the announcement; turn away from the sin in your life, have your sin washed away in baptism in the name of Jesus and then that sin will be replaced with God's Holy Spirit. Yes, Jesus came to save us from our sins. We also notice from these announcements that in Jesus we experience God's presence and peace. There is no need to be afraid. The angels told that to Joseph. Gabriel told that to the shepherds out in the field; don't be afraid; everything's okay; God is in control; I've got some Good News to tell you. No doubt part of that Good News is that we can enjoy God's presence and God's peace in our lives today. Prior to going to the cross, Jesus told His disciples these words in John 14:27, <"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."> Jesus was about to depart from their midst; but, He said, "It's going to be alright, you can be at peace. You may have troubled souls now, but I know what is happening and everything will be okay." And that same promise applies to us today. As we receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, we can experience that peace and the presence of the Lord God Almighty. There's no need to be afraid. Here's a third thing that we find in these announcements. We can be part of Jesus' kingdom, that will never end. Well that too is good news, isn't it? The kingdom, the reign of Jesus Christ will never end. Opposition might be made to it, people might oppose it in various ways, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ will reign forever and for all eternity. The apostle Paul writes about that in Ephesians chapter 2. He describes the condition of those who become a part of the family of God, who receive that salvation. And he writes these words, "You are members of God's household, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone." Can you imagine what it's like to be a part of God's household? It's a wonderful experience to be a part of God's family, to have and receive all of the blessings and all of the promises that are afforded to those who belong to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That's why Jesus came, so we can build our life upon Him as our chief cornerstone, and know that God loves us and He promises to give us that eternal home in Heaven. Here is one final bullet thing I believe we can learn from these announcements. Jesus came to bring a life of joy. The good news that we find in these announcements overrides all of the bad and negative news that we hear in the world today. That's great, isn't it! There is something that is good, something that is positive. Peter writes in 1st Peter 1 verse 9, <"You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."> When our life is found in Christ, which is mentioned 165 times in the New Testament, there is great joy that comes from that, an inexpressible joy. It's hard to explain that kind of joy. But that's one reason for which Jesus came, to bring us life and that we might have life, a joyful life, to the full (John 10:10). Oh, because of mankind's sin and our rebellion toward God, we are separated from Him. We don't have that relationship with God, like we perhaps would like to have and to enjoy. But Jesus' coming into this world changed all of that. By Jesus coming into this world, He came to eliminate our sin problem and to give us a solution. As He arrived in this world, it changed the course of history. No longer are we separated from God. No longer do we have our sin problem. No longer do we have to deal with the burden of guilt because of what has happened in the past. But through Jesus Christ we now have a way to have access to our loving Father in heaven. We now have access into His family, where we receive all of His wonderful blessings and promises. Out of His great love, God sent His one and only Son into this world (John 3:16). That's Good News my friend. That's the best news that I could ever share with you. God did the work. He made the sacrifice by offering His Son to you and to me. Jesus then went to the cross and He paid the price by giving His life for you and for me. And now, we have the opportunity to accept that free gift, to put our faith and trust in Jesus, to be baptized into Him, just like those people did in Acts chapter 2. And when that happens, we are filled up with God's spirit. When that happens, we are added into the family of God and we're able to anticipate a future home with Him. When we consider some of the greatest news stories ever recorded, when we think about those news events and those news stories that are taking place right here in the Bible, that are recorded for us, perhaps what we have just talked about is the best news ever. It might even be at the very top of the list. It comes from credible sources. It is documented in God's Word. This news has made an eternal difference in the lives of millions of people throughout history. And I am thankful that we have this news here in God's Word. I'm thankful that it's there and it reminds us of God's great love for us. But, let me close today with one final question. What has the best news ever proclaimed, how has it changed your life?
Television stations, like this one, focus on one primary thing; that is, to share the latest and greatest news stories of the day. Now, some of that news obviously is not so good, while other news stories are great to hear. And then, we like to gather around the television and watch those news stories. We want to hear what's happening where we live and even in other parts of this world. Yes, those news stories are special and important. However, there was one news story that took place many years ago which far surpasses any news story that we might be able to receive or to share today. That news story revolved around the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born in a small town called Bethlehem many years ago and that event was announced, not through a television station, it did not show up on the internet, it was not even printed in a newspaper; but rather, the announcement was made by the angels in heaven. The Angels of God proclaimed the arrival of God's Son into this world and that was a special occasion. The Good News was that Jesus has come, and He is the Savior of this world. And when I pause to think about that, I am thankful I have heard that news story, and perhaps you have heard it as well. It's the greatest news story that has ever taken place, because, indeed, Jesus has come to be the Savior of this world, to be your Savior and to be my Savior. My friend, today, that is the very best news story anyone could ever hear.
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